Tag Archives: Christmas

Worship Wednesday – I Have Seen the Light – Chris Machen & Robert Sterling

Photo Credit: Flickr

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.Isaiah 9:2

Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

The first night of a camp-out is a challenge. Trying to sleep in a strange bed, for one. Then it seems the night is long. Getting settled earlier than usual sans electricity, extra tired from hiking in, we turn in before our normal sleep time…and wake up still in the dark. It is always so dark in the woods.

Then the light begins to dawn. One memory looms large. We left the tent, in darkness. The birds were waking and singing, so we knew it wouldn’t be long until sunrise. We groped our way through the tangle of small trees, with our sleeping bags wrapped around our shoulders, keeping out the cold. The brush opened at the edge of a small slope, and the Atlantic Ocean just ahead could be more heard than seen in the pre-dawn light.

Sitting on the slope, huddled together, we watched for the sunrise.

Glory! Always.

Light is a constant theme in the Word of God – from Genesis to Revelation. Christ, as creator, separated light from darkness, from the beginning of time (Genesis 1:3-4). Jesus called Himself “the light of the world”, and then he commissioned us, His followers, to be “lights to the nations” (Acts 13:47).

Years ago, I first heard the Southern Gospel song, I Have Seen the Light, but I can’t tell you when or where. One of the songwriters, Chris Machen, and his wife Diane, were the worship leaders at a conference I attended in the 90s. Maybe it was there. The great harmonies of this song have been raised by two different Gospel groups: Gold City Quartet and The Gatlin Brothers. It is also a song our home church, Indian Springs Baptist, (in Kingsport, Tennessee). used to sing and would blow the rafters off. It gives me goosebumps, every time.

Worship the God of Light with me via this powerful song.  Below you will find links to the song performed by a US church, and international church and a university. So special… thank You, God.

I had been blinded; I couldn’t see –’Til the Star in Bethlehem sky opened my eyes.

(Chorus)

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness

Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.

I have seen the Light Whose holy name is Jesus.

His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne.

There in a manger, an innocent Baby — Who could believe He was the One?

I can believe it.  I know it’s true–He changed my life.  He is the Light.  He is God’s Son!

We must tell the world [we must tell the world] what we’ve seen today in Bethlehem.

He’s the promised King [Hallelujah!].  We bow down and worship Him.

We will worship Christ the King!*

Hunter Street Baptist Church’s I Have Seen the Light

The Geneva International Christian Choir and Orchestra (this song starts at 1:35 min.)

Back to that camping trip now. The sunrise mesmerizes then dazzles the eyes. Finally, sunlight becomes the normal of that day. We easily make our way back to camp in the light of day. Coffee, conversation, and preparations for the day follow. Nothing obstructs because now we can see. We just take the light for granted.

In John 9, the account  is given of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth. That man was interrogated by the religious leaders of the day because they hoped to prove he was never blind and that Jesus was a fraud.

That man, marvelously healed shut the questioning down finally with this:

“One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:25b
Once we were blind…but now!

Worship Wednesday – Joy to the World – For King and Country

Photo Credit: YouTube, For King & Country

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
 – Romans 12:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Who’s heard this strange and woeful adage: “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”? It’s a saying that’s been around a long time, and I’m thinking it originated around a holiday family dinner table.

This Christmas we were having one of those conversations about the mess the world is in…we were a multi-generational family gathering of teens to our eighty-somethings. All beloved by each other.

As our conversation spiraled down, I looked around the table at these precious young ones. This was more their world we were talking about than our own. This was the world we were handing them.

Then the realization washed over us all again as our conversation turned. This world pales in comparison to some of the other eras in history…and survived. This world is not beyond the care of God…not beyond His reach…not beyond His ability to save.

We may not take joy in the political chaos we see nor the hardships that surround us, but we can always take joy in knowing that what we see is not the whole story.

The Lord has come! He comes every day into this beautiful, messy world. He created it in perfection, and we have had our sinful way with it. Still, He comes. He shows up every single day in our lives and in the circumstances of the peoples and governments of this world.

For King & Country, one of my favorite Christian bands, has taken the Christmas standard Joy to the World and reminded us of this very truth…Christ has come, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Worship with me on the new beginning of another year…who knows what God will do? Joy…

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

It’s remarkable isn’t it?
As Luke said that this baby boy
No family of promotion
No city of impressive nature
Just a manger
No social media campaigns
No presidential campaigns
No private aeroplanes
But he rose up with twelve ragamuffins
And He turned B. C into A. D.
Flipped the world on its head
He’s the most famous name around the globe
The most read book ever written

And the most beautiful news the world has ever known is this
That He reconnected us to heaven
He offered us redemption, a fresh start
Freedom, so that we can hold our heads high
And march through this life knowing,
My friends, that we are never alone
And that’s the greatest news the world has ever known
So let’s stand to our feet tonight
And let’s sing this like we mean it
Joy to the world the Lord has come

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing*

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” – C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

*Lyrics to Joy to the World – For King & Country

Joy to the World – Isaac Watts – original lyrics

YouTube Video – The One Hour for King & Country Christmas Concert, Phoenix, AZ

10 Bible Verses for a Joyful Spirit – Taylor Yenko

YouTube Video – Joy – For King & Country (Official Music Video)

5 Friday Faves – Maxwell House, Christmas Traditions, For King & Country, Parenting Well, and New Year’s Resolutions

Quiet week…but the faves keep coming. Here are five:

1) Maxwell House –  Maxwell House is known for its coffee…“good to the last drop”.  It’s been around a long time (over 100 years). I have friends who have never wavered from their loyalty to Maxwell House, despite all the trend-setting coffees of late. This Labor Day, Maxwell House popped up on my Twitter feed with a #LaboronLaborDay contest. All we had to do was follow the company on Twitter, take a picture of ourselves working on Labor Day, and post it with a comment. The grand prize winner (1000 total) would receive the equivalent of a paid day off in gratitude from Maxwell House. I was one of the 1000. A pre-paid Visa card of $150 came in the mail yesterday. If you follow this company on Twitter or Instagram you will see a core value of care for hard workers and for those neighbors in dire straits. I was surprised to receive the card but even more surprised at a company that clearly majors on honoring others…an uncommon courtesy in these times.

2) Christmas Traditions – Part of the joy of Christmas is those traditions we look forward to, year after year. They change as family grows and when life and work take us far from each other. Still, Christmas traditions are deep in our hearts. Rather than grieve when we don’t get to continue them, we tweak them and flex when need be. The joy still comes if we don’t hold too tightly to the what once was. What are some of your Christmas traditions? For us, family get-togethers, meet-ups with friends, Christmas Eve candlelight service, carol singing, frosted cookies and favorite finger foods, Christmas light drive-arounds, movies and TV specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas)…and what else? Quiet times…reading and reflecting on the astonishing account of God coming so close to us through the birth of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Biography

3) For King & Country – I LOVE this band. Musically mesmerizing. Their concerts are personal and electrifying. Their Christmas Tour 2018 is done and they will start an intense touring schedule in 2019 (including a world tour). If you’ve never seen them play, make it happen. Here’s an hour of For King & Country from their Christmas Tour:

4) Parenting Well – In this information age, there is just so much advice on how to parent. So much. I’ve given my share as well… because we love those little people AND their parents. We learn from each other. We can also learn from  the very public lives of British royalty even – Prince William and Kate Middleton. Here’s a bit of wisdom that comes from their parenting values. It should encourage and reinforce what you parents of littles are already doing…without an audience.

5) New Year’s Resolutions –What do we have? 3 more days in 2018 of reckless eating, not enough sleep, routines all turned topsy-turvy. Then…resolved. Right? Actually New Year’s resolutions are an excellent device to help us get off to a strong start into the next year, or month or week. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Blog - New Year's Resolutions - davidlose.net - Calvin & HobbsPhoto Credit: DavidLose.net

For me, some do. One, in particular, from this year has sustained me through the whole of 2018. I had resolved that God’s voice would be the first I would tune to each morning. Through prayer; through meditation on His Word. Through listening. Cell phone and computer left off…for that bit of early morning. It’s been a very good thing. How about you? Any resolutions you have simmering in your thoughts? Give them a try…you never know when one will stick.[My resolutions for 2018 – revisiting them for 2019.]

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

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So thankful for this life and the people in it…Happy New Year, Dear Ones.

Bonus:

Monday Morning Moment – Christmas Eve – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

[Adapted from the Archives]

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

At Movement Church, Pastor Cliff has spoken on it and our worship team led us in singing Matt Papa‘s Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyrics follow below). Afterward, we had this lively conversation on whether referring to God as condescending was correct or not.

Oh yes…in the fullest sense of that word!

Hang in there with me as I take you through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than I am.

“God is condescending. It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way.

Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.

Worship with me to Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery“.

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

Explore God – Is Jesus really God?

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

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Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

Worship Wednesday – Our God Is With Us, Emmanuel – Steven Curtis Chapman

2013 December Christmas with Grandparents & Christmas Town 048

[Adapted from the Archives]

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”Matthew 1:18-23

I worship in my car. You know when you are stopped at a traffic light, and your windows are buzzing with the sound of the bass in the car next to you? You look over and they’re rocking out to some cool song? Well, I sometimes do the same…on a quieter less rockin’ level…but there’s still a lot going on in my car, too. Just for an Audience of One.

When Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Our God Is With Us comes on the radio at Christmas, my thoughts rein in to this great truth. We are not alone. God is always present with us.

He brought that reality as near to us as possible in the birth of Jesus, the God-Son, born to the virgin, Mary, over 2000 years ago. God revealed Himself personally through Jesus. I am no theologian, but this is very clear to me – everything I have read in Scripture on the life of Jesus, and everything I have experienced of Him myself. My heart resonates with the words of this song. Jesus is the “Immanuel” – He came to be with us – to save, to heal, to restore us to Himself. Hallelujah!

Worship with me…

One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains And we’re left all alone. One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave, oh, and we’re left all alone.

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness There comes a great announcement, we are never alone. For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take, Has come to earth and given hope its birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire But no one had seen His face. Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire and left His rightful place.

And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken as God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart. And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness, He came to earth to show our worth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel Our God is with us, oh Emmanuel Our God is with us.*

*Lyrics to Our God Is With Us – Songwriters Steve Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith

YouTube video of Our God Is With Us – Full song – 6:43 minutes

YouTube video of Our God is With Us – shortened audio, with lyrics

Website for Steven Curtis Chapman [Our God Is With Us was a title on his first Christmas album, 1995, The Music of Christmas]

The Title Emmanuel and the Name Jesus

God Is One – the Wonder of Trinity [Tri-Unity] – God the Father, God, the Son, God the Holy Spirit – a simple lesson on an amazing reality

“Best of all, God Is With Us.” – John Wesley [for more great God-glorifying quotes by the John & Charles Wesley, click here.]

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Marc Martel with Downhere

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are so many beautiful ones – both standards and newer ones. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

[Cyber] Monday Morning Moment – Conquering the One Downside of Christmas

Photo Credit: Nerdist

Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.

Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.

That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list.  For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.

For some of the rest of us, not so much.

Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.

I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.

Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.

Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!

Deep breath.

So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.

For today,  I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.

Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.

Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.

You are rock stars and super heroes.

Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.

Grandparent Giving: Unspoken Secrets You Must Know Before Giving Gifts – Dave Ramsey

Giving Mistakes that Grandparents Must Avoid

The Downside of Christmas – Sharon Woods Harris

The Pros and Cons of Christmas

How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism – Lia Martin

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 2 – Caring

[Today’s blog is Part 2 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere and Part 3 – Constancyhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto next generations.

From building capacity, we can move to that character trait of genuine caring. Caring that comes from a heart full of love. We all love…it’s part of our nature. This kind of caring isn’t the love that we in our human effort alone can make happen. This is a love that comes from Jesus to us…and then through us to others.

Every morning, I wake up to this view – my bedside table and the wall beyond it. A framed print hangs right where I see it first thing – a little cherub nestled in an open heart with the words inscribed: “Heart full of love”. A dear friend gave this to me before we went overseas. Like other keepsakes from so many of our friends and loved ones, it reminds me of their caring, and inspires me to be and do likewise.

The Bible is full of calls to love. God is perfect in His own love for us and He then commands us to care for one another. Through every season of our lives. The earliest God-fearers mentioned in the Old Testament were taught to 1) love God and 2) love each other as they would themselves. Jesus also taught these two very same greatest commandments.

The night before He was crucified, in a room with his closest friends and followers, Jesus took that commandment up a notch: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you; you also are to love one another.”

Without Jesus filling us with such love, we could never even fathom how to love others like He loves us. Laying down our lives for one another as He laid his life down for us.

It is obvious how we all benefit from such great love received by Him and lavished on others. During that last supper together, Jesus and those dear to Him, He went on to give one more incentive to love – one more world-shaking incentive. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

As we love God, and receive His love, we are moved to keep our eyes on Him and allow Him a place in our lives to display His love in all kinds of ways…we can care for others as He cares for us.

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

In all the seasons of our lives, we deal with people not like us, people we consider haters or spoilers. People who hate us so we are tempted to hate them right back. There are also those people who are just plain indifferent to us or to those we love. Lastly, there are those who are stranger to us. We don’t know them; we don’t need to know them, we think. Whether we believe we are this way or not… how we act toward others is telling.

We were living overseas when 9/11 happened. We came home a year later, and we discovered an America that had suffered so much loss. It was like we as a people had circled our wagons. Even in the South, people didn’t make eye contact, or chat with store clerks or strangers on the street, or generally engage people they didn’t know. It seemed just easier, less risky, to be home with just a few people. Us four and no more, right?

Jesus calls us to care for those closest to us, those easy to love, those who care for us. It’s a joy to love them. His call goes much farther, though…for our own sake and that of all we encounter.

God calls us to care…to love…as He does.

This is the largest sincerity check of our lives. The life of the Christ-follower is a life of love…of deep caring…of caring beyond comfort.

We have all heard the response “Well, it’s not about you.” In our flesh, we totally want it to be about us…but…

When we make the substance of our lives about ourselves, our lives get very small. They seem big to us because of all the responsibilities we carry; all the cool stuff we get to be about. However…what could our lives be like if we cared, truly cared, about others…any others, all others?

“To fill up on God, you begin to have more than enough love for others and yourself because the God Who IS love is operating on the inside of you.”Cassia Glass

Photo Credit: Jill E. McCormick

We can be the people through whom the world sees Jesus. Because of our love, our care, for each other.

This kind of caring is costly. It cost Jesus everything. Whatever the cost is to each of us, young or old, we gain so much more than we give. A 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her whole life serving orphans in India, cast-off little girls who would come to know God’s love…through Amy. She had this to say about what caring costs and what we gain in caring:

“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

I want to just stop right here a moment. You…you women right here have shown yourselves to be this kind of Christ-follower. You have built capacity for God to show up through you. You love through all kinds of hard. You know from God’s Word that our battle is not against one another…the Evil One wants to break us and divide us and tarnish what the world sees of God in us. You stay strong, Dear Ones…and keep tending the embers of love, in the midst of this hard place. God will keep showing up.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, John Groberg

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 1 – Capacity

This past weekend, I was privileged to speak at a women’s holiday event in Kingsport, Tennessee. 150 women gathered to bring in a vintage Christmas together. Photo Credit: ISBC Women’s Ministry, Facebook

The food was delicious, the company was old friend-comfortable, and the memories wrapped around us like a Tennessee quilt.

The Festival of Tables was amazing – designed by the women hostessing. Just a few of the table toppers shown below:

[Today’s blog and the next two – Part 2 and Part 3] are taken from the talk I gave that evening on “Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart”. The following are excerpts of the talk because some who couldn’t come wanted me to post. Though written for Christian women, there is much to apply to any of our lives.]

“Vintage” can mean something very different to each one of us, depending on our ages and life experiences.

Vintage…one day our grandchildren and great-grands will look way back to our Christmases and call them vintage. They will look back on us as the women of old in their lives – the grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) of their faith.

What do we see when we look back? What will they see when they look back?

When I look back to my growing up years, it’s my Mom and women like her who come to mind. Godly women – tirelessly serving their families, church and community and pointing us to Jesus.

In thinking about Vintage Christmases and matters of the heart, God has placed three character traits on my mind. Three qualities we probably saw in our Godly grandmothers and great-aunts.

Strong and steely traits that we can develop across a lifetime walking with God. These traits are all matters of the heart. We see them in the life and character of Jesus. As we wrestle with them in each season of our lives, we can hope to carry them forward to future generations.

The first is capacity defined as the maximum that something can contain or produce.

In every season of our lives, we have those moments or days of coming to the end of ourselves. We feel like we just can’t do one more thing. We are DONE. When I talk about capacity, it’s not about adding more stuff to lives that are over-packed or over-scheduled lives. God doesn’t call us to be Energizer Bunnies…until we burn out, or dry up, or give in to the busy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Capacity isn’t just about getting a lot done. Nor is it, on the flip side, about shaking up those of us in seasons of life that have been downsized –  intentionally or unintentionally. Unless God is speaking into that…which He sure did with me.

Building capacity means to look to God to order our days and to watch for Him to show up in our schedules and “chance” encounters.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come through both a cancer diagnosis and a couple of cardiac emergencies that could have taken my life. Having half a lung removed diminished my physical capacity for awhile. Then moving into retirement diminished my other capacities even further. I felt old. In our previous work circles and in our church, whatever purpose or identity I had before seemed to fade with time and age. It wasn’t pretty.

Maybe you have experienced this sort of thing, whatever your age is. A situation where you have passion or desire to be a part of something but the doors seem to all be closed. When it seemed there was no way forward, I just settled into a slowed-down, lesser life.

In the middle of all this, the Lord in His great kindness, pretty much asked me, out right, “Is that it? You’re done?” I sure didn’t want to be done. With age and what seemed to be dwindling opportunity, life had become small for me.

Or did I do it to myself? Was I looking to people for opportunities to serve…or to God?

Now those of you with heavy academic loads, small children or big responsibilities in your work may not even be able to imagine this…but think with me a minute. Is our capacity such that God could show up and do as He wills in us…or are we pretty much maxed-out or turned-in?

Does God have our hearts? Or is our capacity dulled because He is more a tenant in our hearts rather than the Lord?

Is there space in our hearts He would fill if we didn’t already have them packed with other stuff?

Now, we all have responsibilities in life. For some, papers have to be written, babies must be fed, and payrolls managed…fill in the blank in your thoughts of where you have to show up every day…

What happens when we show up with our eyes on Jesus and the possibility of what He might do in and through us?

That realization from the Lord that “if I wasn’t done, then what?” started a spiritual journey for me… Last December, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in response to our pastor’s challenge, I determined to make God’s voice the first voice of my every day. I’m a morning person, so quiet times before dawn may come easier for me than for some. Still for God’s to be the first voice does require me NOT to pick up the cell phone, or sit down at my computer, or turn on the TV news. In my season of life, there are no children to feed or to get schooled, so you with children have different challenges of making God’s voice first.

Whatever our challenges, it doesn’t change our great need of hearing Him speak truth and love into our hearts. Early. Every day.

When God did get first voice, He began helping me to clear out the clutter in my heart which changed the contents of my conversations and my calendar…Bit by bit, God added space to my life. Space to hear Him speak and to “interrupt” the rhythms of my day.

The discovery that I seemingly had more time wasn’t magic…it was God.

The visual below is so perfect of Christ flooding our heart with His love and all the good things God has for us, and in turn our hearts are cleansed, cleared of all the junk that distances us from Him, and then the contents of our hearts pour into others. Jesus talked to the religious leaders of his day about this very thing: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”Photo Credit: HolyTrinityPTC

Another way to look at this is related to what we hold in our lives as treasure. Jesus taught us that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo Credit: Heather C. King

You can guide your heart with your treasure. Wherever you put your treasure or whomever you make your treasure, your heart will follow. Your treasure leads your heart.

This was so helpful for me because I had stored up quite a bit of self-absorbed treasure in recent years – my own significance being one part of that. Even wanting to be useful to God somehow had become an idol. That sort of thing just happens when we take our eyes off Him and onto ourselves. Right?

Days turned to weeks of God being the first voice each day in my life. I started doing life more in present tense with Him, listening for His voice through the day. Like a real conversation. Sometimes it would be a prayer; sometimes a complaint; just being in His presence. The barriers keeping life small seemed to start coming down. Such that, even when life was small, I was becoming more content. We keep our eyes on God, and He guides…sounds too simple, I know…but it has given the most mundane day or situation a sense of the divine.

The prophet Isaiah captures this so well when he says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”. [Isaiah 30:21] Of course, we may not hear God speak audibly, but He will lead us just that clearly as we tune our hearts to His voice. We’ve all experienced that. To walk daily like this builds capacity…

Photo Credit: Francis of Assisi, Brainy Quote

We start by doing what’s necessary…this is sometimes where we stop…short.  If…we keep our hearts on the Lord, the necessary can open up to being a part of something only possible with God in it…and then…the impossible.

 If we are faithful to make a capacity for Jesus…He will fill that capacity with Himself.  “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!” – Catherine of Siena

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Quotemeal

[Part 2 on Caring and Part 3 on Constancy]